Belgium Seeks to Raise Minimum Online Gambling Age

A month after it became known that Belgian politicians were planning to introduce a bill that would aim to curb gambling advertising on local television, news about a separate legislative piece have emerged, that one targeting another aspect of the country’s existing gambling regulations.

Belgium’s Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party has recently introduced a bill that seeks to raise the minimum age for online gambling from 18 to 21. At present, online sports betting and National lottery customers must be aged 18 or over in order to be able to engage in such gambling activities. Online casinos, on the other hand, admit only players aged 21 or over.

If the proposed legislation succeeds in the Federal Parliament of Belgium, the current status quo will change. The measure is intended to restrict the proliferation of online gambling among the young and vulnerable members of the country’s population.

Belgium originally legalized different forms of games of chance back in 1999, when the Betting and Gaming Act took effect. The Act was amended eleven years later in a bid to respond to growing demand for regulated online gambling services.

The country introduced a new regulatory framework that made it possible for interested international operators to apply for a license from the Belgian Gaming Commission. The amended regulations became effective on January 1, 2011.

According to the country’s gambling regulator, the move has so far proved to be particularly good for the local gambling industry and for those participating in different online gaming and betting activities. The Belgian Gaming Commission has previously pointed out that only around 15% of all online gambling customers prefer gambling on unregulated websites. Here it is actually important to note that players may face heavy fines if found to be gambling on the websites of unauthorized operators.

CD&V explained its decision to propose a new minimum gambling age with the fact that online gaming and betting services have become extremely popular among teenagers. Studies from the past several years have shown that one in five 17-18-year-olds have gambled online. Betting on different sports has been particularly popular with that demographic.

According to CD&V party members, measures need to be taken so as for that part of the Belgian population to be protected from issues related to irresponsible and excessive gambling.

It was namely a CD&V party member that announced last month that he was working on a bill that would seek to put certain limitations on the way gambling products are advertised on local television. Among other things, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens would call for a ban on gambling ads before an 8 pm watershed. If his effort gains enough support to become law, it will also prohibit any such ads from being aired during live sports events broadcasts.

At present, Belgium-facing operators are encouraged to add problem gambling warnings in their ads. However, Minister Geens said that he wanted to make such warnings mandatory.

Gambling ads that are allowed to be aired on Belgian television could be taken down by the country’s Gaming Commission, if the regulator finds them to be promoting gambling services in an excessive manner. The scope of what excessive gambling advertising applies to is yet to be determined.

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